Weld-Smullen team can pay for students
On a Leopardstown student night that might be reasonably described as a resounding success before it ever gets under way, Dermot Weld and Pat Smullen could dominate proceedings and take the feature event with Zannda.
In an attempt to keep things on the right side of civil, attendance for the Spin1038-sponsored evening is capped at 10,000 revellers.
The allocation was sold out in full with two days to spare, which means that regular racegoers will be unable to pay in at the gate tonight. No doubt there will be some displeased about that, but, in the context of routine race days, let's just say that these events take on an identity of their own.
While they wouldn't be for everyone, they are clearly an extremely worthwhile venture from the track's perspective, and there is always a chance that some of those in attendance might even take an interest in the racing.
Should they do so, they could do worse than pay close attention to the old Weld-Smullen firm, whose Zannda is the star equine name on duty in the 12-furlong Listed Noblesse Stakes.
With 12 runners set to go post for the €55,000 event, it is well contested, but, on all known form to date, Zannda is the best horse in the race.
Three times a winner and three times a runner-up in six starts, the Azamour four-year-old goes well in the mud.
She won a Cork Group Three at this trip last August before winning a similar event to this over 10 furlongs in October, when she showed great courage to get up on the line.
Weld's team has started the turf season well and, if Zannda is anywhere close to her best here, she should win.
In the open maiden that gets proceedings under way, the duo's Look Closer gets the nod to build on a promising debut third at the track in the autumn.
Ballydoyle's Claudio Monteverdi could prove a formidable rival. He will probably trade at short odds following an eye-catching recent turn to flash home for fourth behind Embiran at the Curragh, and taking him on might be ill-advised.
Still, L type. He was a decent third to Tonkinese here over seven furlongs on his only outing last June, and he has the scope to build on that now he moves up to a mile.
Smullen and Weld are also trusted to deliver the card's nap vote with Shamreen in the fillies' equivalent over 10 furlongs.
The Ballydoyle representatives Etched and Like A Star are both interesting in this, but Shamreen has ticks in the most boxes at this stage.
A daughter of Dubawi, she is fit from her recent debut at the Curragh, where she kept on nicely over a mile to be third behind stablemate Embiran, a fair effort for a filly against the colts. If Shamreen makes average improvement for that experience and the step up in trip, she ought to take plenty stopping.
In the €12,500 handicap over seven furlongs, David Wachman's Fire Tree has some appeal on its reappearance under Connor King.
Weld's once-raced Dundalk winner Va Pensiero is one of seven runners in this three-year-olds-only affair. She could progress from that recent triumph, but she will do well to give Fire Tree six pounds.
Successful off a mark of 70 at Dundalk in October, Fire Tree subsequently finished a decent third to Jaqen H'Ghar here off 75 on its final outing later that month. He is in off the same rating now and he has the scope to keep improving.
Aidan and Donnacha O'Brien can get among the winners with Ineffable in the Classic generation's 10-furlong handicap, while Smullen could take the open heat over the same trip on John Kiely's Henry's Girl.
In the mile finale, Beechmount Whisper is worth a look for Patrick Prendergast. Chris Hayes's mount has to overcome a wide draw, but he is brilliantly consistent, making the frame in each of his last eight starts.
Second at Cork last time, Beechmount Whisper will be better suited by the furlong-longer trip here.